A true tale of crime from Eidsvoll Manor

The Eidsvoll Thief

Eidsvoll Manor House

A vintage photo of the Eidsvoll Manor House shows how it looked in days of old.

The Iron Works at Eidsvoll, a night in 1922. The old, big trees sway in the dark. A few moonbeams penetrate through the treetops and dance over the Eidsvoll Manor House enveloped in darkness. A stone’s throw away, Albert Jacob Lange twirls his enormous mustache and feels that it is a little sticky from the honey in his tea earlier that evening. “Bloody hell,” he thinks as he crawls to his bunk and turns to where the bookmark is in the big book, The history of Norwegian Monasteries in the Middle Ages, written by his father a long time ago.

Shortly thereafter, perhaps only a few seconds later, Albert is sleeping like a baby. He does not wake up from the wind flapping in the curtains nor from the sound of quick footsteps on the gravel path outside the conservator’s residence. And when the sound of shattering windowpanes from across the park somewhere is heard between the trees, everything is drowned out by the conservator’s snoring.

A man, a shadow in the park, had waited until dark and for the snoring to take over at the conservator’s residence before he wound his way through the trees. It was too tempting. Too many times he had looked at the Eidsvoll Manor House, empty and dark. “A national monument, a treasure.”

All his life, he had heard about the wonderful house. And now he stood outside the broken window, alone in the dark, listening. An alarm? Voices? A guard dog or two? No. It had already been several minutes since the stone left his hand and broke  through the windowpane. Now everything was just a whistling in the treetops and nothing more.

“This is just too easy,” he thinks and climbs into the winter garden room without cutting himself on the pieces of glass.

In the days and weeks that followed, the break-in at the Eidsvoll Manor House received enormous attention among the public and on the pages of  the country’s newspapers. The police quickly began a thorough investigation to catch the Eidsvoll Thief.  Conservator Lange was distraught at what had happened but nevertheless immediately set about making a list of everything that had been stolen. Important and valuable objects of gold and silver, money, and irreplaceable relics from 1814 were gone, and Conservator Lange stood back humbly, his mustache had lost its shape.

Eidsvoll’s flaming star

As much as Conservator Albert Lange wanted to uncover the Eidsvoll Thief, he loved the secret and hidden just as much.

The fact that Albert never finished Gjertsen’s School for Higher General Education was not because of a lack of interest in reading. Books were a big part of Albert’s life. First at a job for the Cappelen Publishing House, then in his own antiquarian bookshop in Christiania.

But Albert also wanted to achieve more. He was, after all, the son of the national archivist Christian C.A. Lange, not just anyone. He lived among books, read a lot, and eventually, it was especially books about secret lodges and freemasonry that caught his attention. And with burning enthusiasm, he with time became a lodge brother himself.

Now, humiliated by a burglar, could he make use of his network? Could he put extra pressure on his contacts at the police? He was adamant that the thief should be caught, whatever the cost. It was not for nothing that his lodge brothers referred to him as “Eidsvoll’s flaming star.”

The police were enthusiastically engaged in their search, and although fingerprint experts believed they had good leads, the Eidsvoll Thief was still a buried mystery. Until a tip from Kristiansand trickled in …

On Conservator Lange’s list of stolen items from the Eidsvoll Manor House are several silver spoons. And now a person, someone from eastern Norway, is walking around Kristiansand trying to sell 150-year-old silver items. There must be a connection. The easterner even fits the description the police are looking for. The gold will come home, says Albert Lange, slowly wringing his hands.

The lump of humiliation now feels more like vindictiveness and a certain excitement. Who is this Eidsvoll Thief? Could it be someone he knows from before? Or is it a matter of a thief passing through? Now it is just before he will be caught, just before it will be  revealed. Albert twirls his mustache.

Conservator Lange’s stress level had reached a breaking point, as was the attention in the press following the unexpected development in the case. Every day, readers could follow the Eidsvoll Thief’s cat-and-mouse game. Conservator Lange and the law enforcement officers got to play supporting roles, while the thief both took the leading role and directed the development of the story in an increasingly entertaining way. He has complete control.

In the end, everything from watches, glasses, silver, and gold is back in Conservator Lange’s custody, and somewhere the Eidsvoll Thief is sitting  and reflecting on what he has done. The anxiety of a few days ago is replaced by adrenaline, and a kind of courage builds up, and he grabs a pen. The words come like pearls on a string. Perhaps the exchange is not historic, but it will certainly go down in history, thinks  the robber, and with his pen, he chisels out a poem, which he sends to Morgenbladet.

Eidsvoll Thief

Norwegian newspapers reported on developments in the story of the Eidsvoll Thief: “The Eidsvoll Thief has sent the stolen items to the polic in a package, but he kept the money. All the items were intact.”

The last sign of life from the Eidsvoll Thief before he disappears forever is this poem, which was printed on Aug. 19, 1922:

The Eidsvoll Thief

On tiptoe, the robber came slyly
to Eidsvoll Iron Works one night.
It was a tempting occasion,
for everything lay abandoned.
Mr. Lange lay in a sweet slumber,
in the midst of a dream
of guard and dog,
which he has often advocated for,
but the state has grimly refused.

Mr. Robber opened the doors
to the country’s sanctuary
and stole the most seductive
of everything that happened to be there.
A tablespoon, a knife, a watch
and everything of the like
in gold and silver and copper,
everything was taken
by the ghastly Robber.

And the people read with horror
in the newspaper the next day
that Lange flew about grumbling
in Eidsvoll and its environs
and asked about a watch and a knife
and searched with his dear life for
a glass and a decanter
and Carsten Anker’s fork.

Then Mr. Robber wept bitterly
in the deep agony of regret.
His intention was genuinely
only experimental.
Now he sent back each
stolen item with parcel post.
There were many presents
that arrived for Mr. Lange.

And Robber was meticulous,
he also sent letters:
Don’t act so hideously
for that which I did!
Now you are getting both
a dog and a guard.


The poem in Morgenbladet was the last sign of life from the Eidsvoll Thief or “Robber,” as he called himself.

Two months later, the police are left with no new leads and are about to give up. Apart from 300 crowns, all the stolen goods have been recovered, so the flaming zeal to catch the thief is now just smoldering embers—also Conservator Lange.

The national monument of the Eidsvoll Manor House is intact, and the Ministry of Church Affairs has even coughed up a few thousand crowns for permanent security, so now Albert can relax. But the stress is  still in his body and eats away at the tired  conservator, and finally the last glow goes out, and a burned-out Albert Jacob Lange dies on Oct. 30.

This story was first published at eidsvoll1814.no and  reprinted with permission. Translated by  Lori Ann Reinhall and Synneva Bratland.

Images courtesy of eidsvoll1814.no

This article originally appeared in the May 2024 issue of The Norwegian American.

Norwegian American Logo

The Norwegian American

The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.